June 2016 Newsletter
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June's News from Bookbag Towers
Happy June, everyone!
Let's get the snark out of the way first! Simon Literary Cowell has declared his intention to write a book for children because all the books he reads to his son are "boring". The internet responded O RLY? Simon, probably not up with youth speak, also got some advice from various children's authors, understandably somewhat miffed, including Philip Ardagh and Michael Rosen. We suggest Simon browses through the Bookbag children's section. He won't find much to bore him in there. We think the Mini Cowell might enjoy Traction Man Meets Turbo Dog by Mini Grey , for example. Oh, what a silly, silly man.
We think books are priceless. But sometimes the auction world begs to differ and sells literary offerings for staggering figures. This month Shakespeare's first four folios sold for almost £2.5 million and a first edition of Alice in Wonderland is expected to raise $2-3 million. The eyes boggle, don't they?
And here's a thing. Did you know that boys who grow up around books will earn more as adults? This is what new research by economists at the University of Padua is telling us. If you didn't have a good reason to make sure your sons are readers - and you are readers, too - then you do now, right?
Here's one for the watchers as well as the readers. Why does George RR Martin kill off so many characters in Game of Thrones? Because it's cheating if you only kill the extras, that's why. But it's not really Martin's fault: he doesn't kill fan favourites himself, after all - his other characters do it for him!
And we can't let this month's newsletter pass without mentioning The Cursed Child, the new, two-part production set in the world of Harry Potter. Audiences are rapturous. It's set 19 years after the seventh and final book in the series by JK Rowling and when tickets went on sale last October the first 175,000 sold within 24 hours. We would wish The Cursed Child luck but we don't think it needs it!
This month we are heading back to 2009 and The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters . Hundreds Hall, the loneliest house in Warwickshire has been home to the Ayres family for two centuries. Post World War II, both the house and family are in decline - cracks are appearing in walls, relationships, psyches.The story is narrated by Faraday, who, like his famous namesake, is a man of science and a country GP. As events take a tragic and chilling turn, he is drawn further into the Ayres' lives. When was the last time you couldn't put a Booker nominated novel down? This is a chilling psychological ghost story that kept me guessing until the very last page and if you haven't read it yet, you should.
Books of the Month
And on to to the new... . In fiction, Jill recommends The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood . Yolanda and Verla wake up disorientated. They realise they've been drugged. Yolanda thinks that perhaps they are in some kind of mental facility - She knew she was not mad, but all lunatics thought that. Verla just sits, still and frozen, waiting. And soon enough, two men arrive to reveal their fate. This is a devastating critique of misogyny generally and the victim-blaming culture that is part of it. Haunting, dark and utterly beautifully written, The Natural Way of Things is a hard but necessary read.
Luke thinks you should read The Fireman by Joe Hill . Nobody knew where the virus came from. Fox News said it had been set loose by ISIS, using spores that had been invented by the Russians in the 1980s. MSNBC said sources indicated it might've been created by engineers at Halliburton and stolen by culty Christian types fixated on the Book of Revelation. CNN reported both sides. While every TV station debated the cause, the world burnt. Both an epic apocalyptic fable and an intimate portrayal of the rise and fall of a community – this tale grips like an iron vice and refuses to let go. Unputdownable, shocking, emotional and at times downright horrific, The Fireman is a superb read.
In non-fiction, Chris thoroughly enjoyed Stalin's Englishman – The Lives of Guy Burgess by Andrew Lownie . In the words of KGB controller Yuri Modin, Guy Burgess had a reputation as 'a disreputable, drunken, homosexual philander.' Hardly James Bond territory is it? Despite that, the man from Moscow rated Burgess as 'a great pro.' But just how great a Soviet asset was he? Truth proves stranger than fiction in this highly entertaining biography of Guy Burgess, the outrageous establishment figure turned KGB spy.
For the little ones, Sue suggests Erica's Elephant by Sylvia Bishop . Erica Perkins is a very sensible young lady. When she wakes on the morning of her tenth birthday and finds a very confused elephant sitting on her doorstep, she doesn't jump up and down shouting Ooh, goody goody, or Oh, you poor cuddly thing. She looks the elephant in the eye: Who left you she demands And why? This is an absolute gem of a book, perfectly pitched for the middle grade reader. And their elephant, of course. It comes highly recommended by Sue. And then some.
For the older ones, Jill loved Concentr8 by William Sutcliffe . In a speculative near-future London, there's a new wonder drug to treat ADHD. Concentr8 is cheap and effective. So effective that the mayor has instituted a programme to identify children for early, preventative treatment. Almost every troublesome teen in London is taking it, often before they've actually become troublesome. But then an austerity drive sees the program cut abruptly. Riots break out, led by the unmedicated teens. This is a dark speculative story about over-medicating the behaviour of children, classism and the idiocy and ignorance of the people in charge. Painful and funny both - and worth it for the parody of Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson alone!
We're always on the look out for people to join our panel of reviewers at Bookbag. We need people who understand that the reader wants to know what the reviewer thinks about the book and not just what's written on the back cover. If you think that you're one of these special people that we're looking for, we want to hear from you. You can find details of how to apply here on the site. Don't be shy!
We have competitions for some great books going this month, and every month, so get entering!
And that's about it for this month. If you're passing Bookbag Towers do pop in and see us – we're at www.thebookbag.co.uk .
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